Living Life with God's Irrepressible Joy
Today, we’re going to continue looking at the background and history of Philippians. So far, we’ve established who wrote this powerful letter, the Apostle Paul. Now it’s time to take a look at who the original recipients were and why Paul was writing to them.
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”
The search for who the recipients of Paul’s letter were is not a difficult one. Not only is the book named after them, but we’re told who they are in the very first verse!
Philippi was a city located in modern day Greece. Back in the day, it belonged to a province called Macedonia. Does that name ring any bells? If you’ve read through Acts, it might trigger some memories. During Paul’s second missionary journey, he was traveling through what is now modern day Turkey preaching the gospel and planting churches. One of his goals was to go into a region called Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit would not allow him to enter that region. How the Holy Spirit did that is unknown. Did Paul just have unease about the trip? Or were there challenges that he was unable to overcome in the physical realm, like the roads were shut or the area was closed to foreigners? We’ll never know, but we know that God didn’t want Paul and his team to go into Bithynia, and He made this very clear to them.
But where did God want Paul to go? You guessed it! Macedonia. Here’s how Acts records the event:
“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us. And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
This event is known as the Macedonian Call. It was a God-directed calling that Paul and his team immediately answered. They went straight to Macedonia and traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and leading city. There, they led Lydia to Christ and rescued the Philippian jailer from suicide. Though Paul and his fellow workers were not in Philippi for very long, they made a lasting impact on this Roman colony and planted a church that would grow and flourish into a body of strong believers.
God had a special plan for the Philippians and made sure that Paul went there in person to deliver the good news. We don’t know all that God did in and through the Philippians, but this we do know: because of their faithfulness to the gospel and love for Paul, we have one of the most uplifting and encouraging books in the Bible. Because God derailed Paul’s plans, not only were the 1st century citizens of Philippi saved, but Christians over the subsequent twenty centuries have been built up in their faith.
So next time God reroutes you or blocks your plans, don’t worry and fret. Rather, wait and see what doors He will open, what He will do, and where He will send you. Who knows, your next aborted plan or failed venture might lead you to your own Macedonian Call?!